SI, The 80/20 Rule, and Coasting(1)

If I asked you what SI stands for, I suspect 80% of the answers would be Sports Illustrated. And if I asked for what Sports Illustrated is best known, why does swimwear come to mind?

Only a small percentage would answer, Self-Improvement to the first question. That’s the problem with our society. After several generations of affluence, most of us do just enough to not get fired or kicked out of our church, civic organization or marriage and then begin the process of coasting. But as age wave guru Ken Dychtwald points out, you only coast in one direction. I am sure this doesn’t apply to you or me. Right.

We sure live in a time of change. Everywhere we turn the conversation seems to center not only on how much life has changed, but also, how hard it is to keep up. And when a friend or associate steps off into the autobahn of life and leaves us behind, the comment, “S/He’s changed” rarely is used as a compliment. And as long as we focus on the change around us instead the change inside us, change will always be a problem.

Just as its hard to steer a parked car, it’s hard to cope without a lifelong focus on self improvement. Now here’s my surgeon warning: SELF IMPROVEMENT IS NO LONGER A LUXURY BUT A NECESSITY FOR SURVIVAL IN OUR CHANGING TIMES. As change accelerates, and it will, coasting becomes increasingly dangerous.

Gandhi famously advised his followers to BE the change you want to see in the world. Referring to individuals, Jim Rohm, motivational teacher/leader, warned that if nothing changes, nothing changes. John Maxwell explains the first and ONLY person you can change is yourself.

I have come to learn that most of us die long before we are buried. Our wonderful dream factory, where kids live and play, somehow goes on life support just as we have developed the skills, experience, and ability to make them come true. So 80% of us abandon our dreams in favor of TV, talk radio, web surfing, face book/gossip, or weekend recreation. When we reach the end of time in this body, too many people have more regrets than accomplishments.

Here’s why: Brian Tracy calculates the average person now spends 50 minutes entertaining themselves for every minute they spend educating themselves. Without focus on daily improvement, dreams remain a mirage in the distance. How many books or articles focused on your dreams have you read compared to how many TV episodes have you watched in the last year? Both would require an hour a day. Ah, coasting on the couch pulling for my team.

So here’s a challenge: Match your TV time with self improvement time. Pick any area: work, marriage, civic or church, and focus that time on improving your contribution.

What would 350 focused hours, or 2 months, of efforts do for your productivity or your effectiveness this year? And as you change yourself, watch what happens to the world around you.

Of course, when I think about SI and the swimsuit issue, Paul’s advice now pops in my head. He told a group of first world Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.(2)” Works for me and my wife!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (1) Inspired by the August issue of Success Magazine CD featuring Brian Tracy, Ken Dychtwald, and John Maxwell (2) Romans 12:2 NIV

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